Friday, 16 January 2015

What if the reason were found

It must be 'What If' season!

In yesterday's post I speculated on how it might have been if (a) androgen exposure in the womb were the cause of being trans, and (b) I avoided that, and got born with a normal female body. I concluded that with with my character and personality basically the same, I would have turned out much as I am now, at sixty-two; looks included.

Slippery words, 'character and personality'! Can one really say that the embryo Melford would inevitably have had the same character and personality as the mature Melford - every time, whatever the different growing-up environments imaginable?

Well, subject to the accidental effects of brain diseases and brain injuries, I do rather think that one's personality tendencies are fixed throughout one's lifetime. So that if (for instance) one is the caring, giving type, that will shine through whatever the upbringing. Or if one is made so that being devious or deceitful comes naturally, then that too will reveal itself again and again throughout life.

Ah...I see I'm arguing myself into a corner here! Because logically these assertions must mean that 'how one is made' is unchangeable. That no amount of education or persuasion will eradicate or modify one's innate characteristics, and one can never be educated out of them, no matter what the therapy, thrashing or threats received. That those characteristics just go underground, so to speak, ready to leap forward and take charge if the imposed and learned behaviour patterns ever crumble.

No hope for confirmed criminals then! Their recidivistic hard-wiring means they will always be fighting against a relapse into crime. Well, that's what I'm really saying, surely? It used to be said (mysterously, but then it was a saying designed to mystify young minds) that the boy is the father of the man. In other words, the adult's character is discernible in the immature child.

That's up for debate of course. Some would strenuously declare that it ain't necessarily so - and that I might not be right about the Melford embryo always becoming a person like the adult Melford, no matter what the physical appearance and upbringing.

However, I do have some personal evidence (which I think convincing) to fling at this. Being saturated with a strong dose of 'wrong-sex' hormones in recent years has modified my appearance, but it hasn't radically altered my character and personality.

So I'd argue that it wouldn't have done so earlier in my life - and not even in the womb. Therefore the default baby me, the little girl, would have had the same personality tendencies as the androgen-soaked me that actually got born.

If indeed the androgen-soaking occurred...that's still theoretical. And there are rival theories aplenty - see for example But I do like androgen-exposure as a mechanism for mutating the body though not the brain. Call it a gut feeling.

Ah, if only the entire matter were settled, and a physical cause for transsexuality discovered! It need not be a case of turning on the testosterone tap at the wrong moment, or for too long. There might be a 'trans gene'. Let's imagine there was such a medical discovery. All trans people would then be able to say these things:

It isn't imaginary.
It's not simply a feeling that something has always been wrong.
There was a physical cause. 
It's not my fault.
I've nothing to apologise for.
I am perfectly justified in seeking treatment to alleviate the consequences of my birth defect.
I will still have to live with a somewhat compromised body.
But I am entitled to the best kind of life possible for someone like myself.
There is nothing strange or wrong or unreasonable about hormone treatment and surgery, major or minor, to achieve that.
And I should be able to have the understanding, full support and best wishes of other people.

The last item is the doubtful one, of course. Human nature being what it is, I can't help thinking that even if that momentous medical discovery were made - that there is a definite physical reason why some babies are born trans babies - plenty of people will pooh-pooh it, or wilfully ignore it. They simply won't be able to cope, just as they can't at the moment.

They will still feel uncomfortable about trans people, and will keep us at arm's length, and deny us rights, and kindness, and proper life chances. Because they dislike the notion that people are complex and variable and not like them. You can imagine the grumbles:

I saw on the news that they've found out why you are trans.
I never thought they would. I thought it was just your imagination.
Some notion you'd got hold of. A fantasy idea, to liven up your life.

I thought you were being so selfish. Ignoring your responsibilities. The commitments you made. 
The family went through hell and back dealing with all this. The embarrassment. Having to explain to everyone. The friends who backed off.
Everyone thought you were mad, bent on self-mutilation for no good reason we could see.

But it was real. And there was nothing you could do about it. 

I suppose we all owe you a big apology. But it sticks in the throat.
Nothing can put right what has happened to the family. 
You're all right now, it's official, and you're off the hook. Lucky you.
But we are still affected by what you did - sorry, what you had to do - and we've got nothing to celebrate. 
The family is broken, and that's that. It can't be put back together.

Why couldn't you be born like everyone else? Definitely one thing or the other? 
What a hopeless mix-up. 
It's your parents' fault. Never liked them. 
Your mum was a smoker, wasn't she? It's her fault, then.

And I had to pick you of all people...

Ouch. Maybe I'm over-dramatising, but merely knowing the precise reason for something doesn't put things right again. The past can't be re-run. The damage is done, and people are resentful and hurt. With every type of catastrophe comes recrimination, and a cry for compensation, even revenge.

The more time spent wrestling with this kind of birth defect, the more devastating the eventual car crash. That's why it would be good if there were a physical explanation, one that could be tested for while the baby were still in the womb.

What am I saying now? A test? To what end? An abortion? Would that be thought the 'kindest' thing to be done when a trans baby were detected, on the basis that such a person would be handicapped for life by their physical appearance? That sounds horrible.

And it need not be at all. A positive and hopeful remedy is available, if society so wills it: to regard trans people as normal and equal. Then there is no handicap, and no need to screen out trans babies.

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